September 2021

CGI member Isobel Stewart began her IT journey in 1983, but only recently has the importance of professional development really hit home. Having moved to CGI in 2018, in this article she shares a little more about her experience focusing on development later on in her career.

I’ve always had a deep interest in information technology, even before it had really hit the mainstream.

I began my IT journey way back in 1983, with Argyll & Clyde Health Board who allowed me day release to study a Computer Data Processing course at Glasgow Clyde College. I became a junior programmer in the health sector, working my way up through the ranks, eventually becoming a Senior Project Manager tasked with delivering enhancements and changes to all of NHS Scotland’s screening systems.

But by 2018, a full 35 years after my journey had begun, it felt time for a change. I joined CGI in 2018, coming on board as a Senior Project Manager, and was promoted to Director Consulting Delivery a year and a half later.

While I feel that my interpersonal skills have been a major driver in my success – if you can get on with people it makes life, and business, much easier – I think my hunger to learn has been just as important. After three and a half decades I remain just as intrigued by technology, and where it will go next.

And in CGI, I’ve found an employer that puts a real focus on professional development.

A focus on developing young talent

Back in the IT dark ages – the 70s – grad schemes were few and far between, which meant many talented people were unable to find a job out of university. Thankfully things have changed.

At CGI I’ve had the pleasure of working with many young graduates and graduate-level apprentices (GLAs) as part of structured graduate schemes. At any given time we have about six individuals in the team, each of whom has a senior mentor who they can go to for advice, whether about their career aspirations or a specific piece of tech.

We take them through intense bootcamp training in areas such as software development, agile, automation and testing. We endeavour to put them on assignments where they can gain real-world experience, doing our best to match these opportunities with their aspirations.

By the time the GLAs complete their course, they boast four years of experience along with their Bachelor of Science (Hons) degree. In short, they are very in demand, so we need to do all we can to retain them. We hope that our investment in them shows our graduates and GLAs how much we value them, but we drive this point home by assigning interesting work, and promoting internally whenever possible.

I have had the pleasure of mentoring many graduates and GLAs. We teach both technical and soft skills, including interview techniques and presentation skills. We encourage our GLAs to contribute to team meetings, and even get them to lead some agile ceremonies, such as retrospectives.

The chance to grow your career at any stage

But to focus exclusively on the professional development that CGI offers to young professionals is to do the organisation a disservice. In just three years at CGI I’ve been given more training than I’d had in my final decade in my last job.

Every single CGI member enjoys their own dedicated training budget which they can use to grow their skills and expand their professional capabilities. This can be spent on instructor-led or computer-based training courses, many of which are offered in the CGI Academia training provision.

CGI knows the value of on-the-job experience, so it offers members the opportunity to join assignments that will expose them to areas of interest. Our Corporate Social Responsibility projects are another fantastic means by which members can grow their skills – pre-COVID, GLAs had the opportunity to practice their presentation skills by sharing their experiences during school visits, for example.

No matter what you want to be or where you want to go, CGI helps you get there. In the process it has developed a reputation as an amazing place to work, no matter what stage of your career you might be at.

The perks of developing diversity

Like many big organisations, CGI has a mix of cultures, and this provides the perfect setting to learn. I’m not just talking about the ‘standard’ idea of diversity, like race, gender, religion and nationality, but diversity in development and personality too. We have people who take a more relaxed approach to work, who help keep things calm and steady, then we have people who are energised doers, who help to drive CGI forward. By working together, we make each other better.

I’ve experienced the benefits of a diverse blend first-hand, in setting up agile teams. The enthusiasm of young minds will spur efficiency and innovation, but it should be tempered with guidance and support from more experienced senior developers. Senior developers get energy from graduate developers, and graduate developers get wisdom from senior developers.

CGI understands it’s in a competitive and fast-moving space. It also knows that its people are its number one asset. The company knows that by investing in workers, it will put itself in a strong position to succeed into the future, and will position itself as an employer of choice for the next generation of IT talent.

And all this is particularly good news for a graduate looking to carve out a path in IT, just as I did decades ago.

Interested in joining us? Check out our latest career opportunities at CGI.